Total Pageviews

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas to All...

Well 2013 is almost over and what a year it has been.  It has been a year of roller coaster rides and sorrow mixed with bitter sweet moments of happiness.

In preparing for this year's holiday season there has been a sense of loss as well as a renewed realization of the precious gift of life and the finite amount of moments that we are granted with our loved ones.  My sisters and I have all been feeling the acute loss of my mother at this time of year.  This will be our first holiday season without her being present in our lives.  Memories are brought back by carols, holiday songs, sweets and treats that are imbued with my mother's influence and presence in our lives.

The preciousness of our moments in this life has only reinforced the need to live with purpose and meaning.  My husband and I are taking time to appreciate the loved ones we have and then we are taking the week between Christmas and New Year to plan for the coming year.  It is time to embrace our health goals, both physically and financially.  This is the real gift we are giving to each other this year.  2014, our year to takes strides toward the future, to focus on health in all aspects of our lives.

From our house to yours I wish you all the blessings of the return of the light that this season symbolizes.  May we all find renewed vision and focus for the year to come!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


EITHER teach them better if it be in thy power; or if it be not, remember that for this use, to bear with them patiently, was mildness and goodness granted unto thee. The gods themselves are good unto such; yea and in some things, (as in matter of health, of wealth, of honour), are content often to further their endeavours: so good and gracious are they. And mightest thou not be so too? or, tell me, what doth hinder thee?


So often in this life we are disconcerted by the spectacle of our less than stellar fellow humans prospering in life when other more "worthy" fellow travelers do not.  In trying to wrestle and deal with this reality in my own life the practice of determining what is "in my control" and what "is not in my control" has granted me a tool for reclaiming my balance and peace in the face of what appears to be rampant inequality and the capriciousness of Fate.

We have no control of outcomes in this life, nor do we have control over other humans.  When we relinquish these foolish attempts to control outcomes and others around us we are left with only ourselves to try to school. 

Success, i.e. wealth, material things, stature, etc., is totally out of our control.  Like the athlete, all we can do is train ourselves towards our goals, becoming a worthy person in the process.  Winning the trophy is totally out of our control as there are many circumstances that may arise during the course of a race to cause the athlete to fall short of their goal.  We may never achieve the career goals that we have set for ourselves, have the family we hoped for, or the health that we wished for in our old age.  No matter how we live our lives these things are out of our control.  The only thing that we can do is to learn and live our lives in such a way as to make our goals possible with the understanding that the actual accomplishment of our goal is out of our control.

I can take an example of two goals that I had when I was younger; to be an opera singer of some fame; to be a wife and mother in a happy family.  One of these goals, an opera singer, I have not accomplished, nor will I accomplish with the time left to me in this life.  The other goal of being a wife and mother in a happy family I have accomplished and I continue to work towards accomplishing on a daily basis.  When I was younger I decided that the goal of wife/mother would take precedence over the opera singer goal.  It was a conscious decision and I have no regrets of letting one goal go when I look at the amazing children and marriage that I have.  I still have my love of opera, classical music and singing that enriches my life in so many wonderful ways and have my husband and now adult children to share that love with.

Although my life does not look like that initial picture that I had painted in my mind about "ultimate happiness", I am profoundly happy.  Quite often in life we are presented with choices on the way to our goals.  Choices that change the course that we are on, present us with detours, or block the way entirely.  If we are locked into the destination rather than the journey we can spend our life embittered and victimized by our inability to attain our initial goal.  In contrast, if we live our life as a journey filled with possibilities and allow ourselves to make decisions and course adjustments based on our journey we will be able to live a happy life filled with wonder.  We will fully experience the wonder of the next bend in the river when we are not focused solely on the journey's end or whether we will reach our "ultimate destination".

Like an archer who sends his arrow winging through the air, we have no control over the wind speeds, rain or fleeting breezes that may blow our arrow off course from the target.  If we have lived our life honourably with a correct use of reason and ethics in making our course corrections, we will reach what should be the ultimate destination of all rational beings, a happy and well lived life. A life blessed by experiences and happy memories of the relationships we have shared and been enriched with along the road.

As Marcus Aurelius mentioned in the quote above, others will prosper who do not appear to be deserving.  We must not concern ourselves with others but live our life as one worthy, an athlete who has proved himself ready to win the prize; ethical, loving, and reasonable.  One who our fellow travelers look up to as an example of a human who is living a life filled with happiness and wonder, balanced in both efforts and reason.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Beauty Is In The Living

AS one that tosseth up a ball. And what is a ball the better, if the motion of it be upwards; or the worse if it be downwards; or if it chance to fall upon the ground? So for the bubble; if it continue, what is it the better? And if it dissolve, what is it the worse? And so is it of a candle too. And so must thou reason with thyself, both in matter of fame, and in matter of death. For as for the body itself, (the subject of death) wouldst thou know the vileness of it? Turn it about, that thou mayest behold it the worst sides upwards as well, as in its more ordinary pleasant shape; how doth it look, when it is old and withered? when sick and pained? And as for fame. This life is short. Both he that praiseth, and he that is praised; he that remembers, and he that is remembered, will soon be dust and ashes. Besides, it is but in one corner of this part of the world that thou art praised; and yet in this corner, thou hast not the joint praises of all men; no nor scarce of anyone constantly. And yet the whole earth itself, what is it but as one point, in regard of the whole world? - MARCUS AURELIUS. MEDITATIONS. Book viii. 19
My quick response on the Words of the Ancient Wise blog to the passage above -   "Living in a society that is so obsessed with appearance, this passage really makes one think about what a frail and fleeting thing our physical body is. Let's keep our body functioning to the best capacity that we can, but focus on our moral and mental health more than anything else."
 As a middle aged woman, or as any woman for that matter, it is extremely difficult to live in this day and age and maintain a healthy sense of self-worth.  We are a society that is obsessed with appearance, conforming to the standard set by our peers.  The crazy fact is that the majority of us feel that we are held to a standard that is unattainable!  I am a fairly attractive 46 year old woman but still suffer pangs of remorse when I look in the mirror.  I am no longer the size 6 that I was in my youth.  Three full term pregnancies and some auto immune issues have taken their toll on my physical appearance.  I no longer have the perfect teeth that I had at 25 or the body that I had in my early 20's.  I have lived and loved and dreamed in this body that I have.  Yes, my body shows the ravages of a car accident (scarring on my knees and a chipped tooth), stretch marks from carrying three wonderful individuals inside of it, and various cuts, bruises and dislocations over the years but it as an engineering wonder.  My body is a testament to over 46 years of loving my family, husband and friends, of working through struggles and overcoming adversity, of grieving, of working through pain and yet still continuing on.  What an amazing vehicle for experiencing life our bodies are!
I will soon, as it says above, be dust and ashes.  Death comes to all for none get out alive!  Our challenge is to care for our bodies and our appearance as much as we can without becoming obsessed with it.  Many of us spend money and time that could be better spent elsewhere trying to fight the aging process with chemicals and with fad diets.  How much better and richer would our lives be if we could allow ourselves to age gracefully?  What if we were to spend that money that we spend on the latest cosmetic, hairstyle or fad diet on educating our minds or giving to a worthy cause?  What a force for change we have the capacity to be for our family and friends around us and for the greater community of the world that we live in.
Let's all strive to celebrate the uniquely beautiful individual that we are!  Let's move forward to the future and love ourselves completely.
With my Mum on the best day of my life. :)

A young Mum at 24 with my daughter Lindley.

At age 45 with Lindley and Emilie on Lindley's wedding day.


Friday, April 26, 2013

Where we are at this moment

IS anyone preferred before you at an entertainment, or in a compliment, or in being admitted to a consultation? If these things are good, you ought to rejoice that he hath got them; and if they are evil, do not be grieved that you have not got them. And remember that you cannot, without using the same means to acquire things not in our own power, expect to be thought worthy of an equal share of them. For how can he who doth not frequent the door of any man, doth not attend him, doth not praise him, have an equal share with him who doth? You are unjust, then, and insatiable, if you are unwilling to pay the price for which these things are sold, and would have them for nothing.

"You are insatiable if you are unwilling to pay the price for which fame and power are sold and would have them for nothing."  In reading this passage this morning I couldn't help but think of how many times I have been plagued with jealousy or feelings of inadequacy because of the lives of others.  So many choices that when we have made them change the course of our lives.  I have many friends who live in the country are able to work on self-sufficiency with goats and chickens, etc.  I live in my husband's grandparents home that we purchased in order to keep it in the family.  Our house is in an urban setting that does not allow me to have poultry or raise goats etc.  There are times that I wish that I lived in the country BUT I would not have the wonderful husband and family that I have nor would I be able to easily have friends over, or be easily accessible for the Stoic workshop evenings in our home, etc. 

If I had to choose between country living and all of the benefits that we have living in an urban environment, for me at this moment in my life, the urban environment wins.  I also wanted to be an Opera Singer in my youth but my eldest child came along and was due shortly after I was to start the Opera program at Wilfrid Laurier University.  I postponed my admittance for a year at first, but when that wonderful boy was born, I fell in love with being a mother as well as a wife and wanted my family to be my main focus.  For me this was a choice that I was willing to make and one that I felt I had to make, although others have been able to jog University with a young child, even a program as demanding as the Opera program.

Now that my children have grown and the "mothering" phase of my life is done I am able to start to look at the things I might have regrets about not doing.  The list for me is very short, thankfully.  I can look at the list and decide if I still wish now to do these things, figure out the cost of doing them and if it is a cost I am willing to pay, and make plans to move forward with those that I feel are experiences or goals that I wish to do make utmost to accomplish in this lifetime.  Of course, I have no control over the outcome as to whether the goals I choose are accomplished, I can only control my efforts, motivations, preparation, etc.

Many years ago my husband and I went through the exercise of seeing if there was a decision made in our lives that we would change and what the outcomes of that change would have been.  We both came to the conclusion that without making the decisions that we had we would not have the amazing family or relationship that we both had and would, therefore, not want to change anything.  Whenever we watch other people and wish for their lives remember that we would not have the life that we have now, the relationships that we have now, and tally up the cost of change.  To live in the present is a gift that allows us to truly appreciate what we have in the Now.   

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

My Cup Runneth Over...

To those who, to excuse their prodigality, urged that they spent only money that they did not know how to use otherwise, Zeno said, 'Would you forgive the cook who made his sauce too salty for you, and said it was because he had more salt than he knew what to do with?'"
Zeno as quoted in Stobaeus' Florilegium, vol. i, p. 271

How many times in our world of affluence in North America have we spent our surplus on frivolous things.  We are so wealthy in comparison with the rest of the world that when we have a surplus of riches we tend to be wasteful or embarrassingly extravagant.  I know that I am guilty of this, especially in our renovations project.  I went beyond what was expedient to purchase granite counter tops.  Yes, I can justify it by saying they will last etc. but it was unnecessarily extravagant if I am totally honest with myself.  I failed at that moment when I chose and prepaid for granite.  A laminate composite would have served my purpose and would have lasted me for ten years and cost less than a third of the price of granite.

So now that I have the installed granite what should I, as a modern day person trying to embrace the Stoic philosophy and principles into my life, do?  I have a few options: a) I could take out the granite and donate it for charity and make do with plywood (this would probably cause damage to the cabinets that are now installed to fit the granite) b) I can accept the past and make the best use of the counter tops moving forward, appreciating them each day and allowing them to bring joy to everyone who spends time in my kitchen.

After much soul searching I have decided to learn the lesson that good does not mean extravagance.  I need to meet my needs for cleanliness, function, etc. moving forward but must learn the lesson that extravagance in neither necessary nor preferred.  Now that the choice to spend more money on granite has been made and it is a "fait accompli" I need to let that choice go and move forward ever mindful of this lesson but not dwelling on it.  It would be wasteful of me to waste the counter top now but I will not spend unreasonably or buy more than I need moving forward.

We are an extremely affluent society.  We suffer from affluenza, the desire to acquire more and more things, to the point that we need storage units and are addicted to shopping and buying more to fit into our storage units.  As a Stoic with the primary guiding principle of "living according to nature" I feel that embracing a more minimalist lifestyle is the way to move forward.  As we continue to fit ourselves into one floor of our house rather than two, we need to keep this idea in mind while sorting through our "stuff", keeping only that which we have a need for and room to store, gifting the surplus to family and friends who need it.  

Friday, April 19, 2013

Being Actively Engaged in Living

"They are mad, who make no account of riches, health, freedom from pain, and integrity of the body, nor take any care to attain them."

Seneca's Epistles, cxxiii, sec. 3.

"The wise man will not love wealth, but yet he will prefer to have it. He will receive it into his house, though not into his heart, not rejecting it, but controlling it, and willing to have larger opportunities for virtue."

Pliny's Epistles, vi, book i, sec. 2.

"In poverty there can be no virtues but perseverance and self-respect, but wealth gives a free field for temperance, generosity, economy, industry, and magnanimity."

Chrysippus, quoted in Plutarch's Morals, Goodwin's Ed., vol. iv, p. 437. 
 Many people when first reading about Stoicism stumble with the term "indifferent".  The Stoic teachers all taught that Virtue and the pursuit of living a virtuous life was the appropriate lifelong goal for an individual.  The idea of certain things in life as being neither intrinsically bad or good is where the term "indifferent" in a Stoic sense came from.  Once again our English language and the common vernacular has twisted the definition and use of the term to mean that someone is emotionally detached and disengaged from any given situation.  Much like the term Stoic (often used to mean a person who is detached and unemotional) the concept of indifference has become one of detachment and someone who is callous or incapable of empathy.

The Stoic teachers listed the Indifferents as influences in our lives that cause us to neither be morally good or bad, i.e. wealth, health, etc.  One can certainly live a virtuous life without wealth but it sure helps life be more comfortable and charitable giving becomes much more possible.  The pursuit of indifferents is NOT the definition of a "good life".  Our society's emphasis on success, money, health, etc. , quite often at the expense of morals, is not a healthy or balanced outlook.  Stoicism allows us to do all that we can and to realize that anything beyond our best efforts is "beyond our control".  We pursue excellence in character and moral fortitude as our life goals.  We surround ourselves with beloved family and friends and measure them far greater than any wealth that we might acquire.  Their witness of good character and a contemplated and deliberately lived life is all the witness that I wish to have at my memorial service.  That I have lived and left this world a better place for having been here is my lifelong goal.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Picking up the Pace Again

It has been a long while (two months) since I have written a blog post.  I have been deep in the throes of home renovations, frantically trying to get a granny suite ready for my Mom-in-law to come home to April lst.  We did not get it completely finished but will be painting the unit the week of April 22.

My own home, upstairs, is needing much attention.  We have the dining room to finish, our bedroom, bathroom and then all of the rooms need painting.  We have felt the lack of peace in our home.

The Stoic workshops were put on hold while our living room was in total chaos and Michel and I dealt with a horrible flu/cold.  We are starting back up this Friday and I look forward to having the conversations and fellowships that the workshops bring into our home.

Spring has sprung and it is time to grow again and allow for change and new possibilities.  While finishing off our home renovations I am planning a raised bed garden to be planted in May, after the Victoria Day weekend.  Michel and I are speaking on Modern Day Stoicism as a spiritual path at Gaia Gathering that weekend.  We are spending time preparing for that 90 min presentation just down the road from our home in Gatineau, QC.

I am feeling the motivation and promise of the future awakening in me again after the long and hard winter of loss and growth.  The promise of summer and the future lie ahead.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Going with the Flow

The past few days have been crazy while we are in the process of renovating and putting in a new kitchen, etc.  If you want to go for a modern day test of your Stoic equilibrium, home renovations would be it.  We are slightly delayed by a week for the countertops to be installed now but plywood counters are just fine as a temporary measure.  It has been a good exercise to run into these unforeseen issues and sort out the problems by "what is in my control", "what is not in my control" and planning ahead to the worst case scenario.

I am blessed with food in my belly, a roof over my head and the love of family and friends.  Everything else is just gravy.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

At the Journey's End

Today's reading from Words of the Ancient Wise was:

"HOW do we act in a voyage? What is in my power? To choose the pilot, the sailors, the day, the time of day. Afterwards comes a storm. What have I to care for? My part is performed. The subject belongs to another, to the pilot. But the ship is sinking: what then have I to do? That which alone I can do; I am drowned, without fear, without clamour, or accusing God; but as one who knows that what is born must likewise die. For I am not eternity, but a man; a part of the whole, as an hour is of the day. I must come like an hour, and like an hour must pass away. What signifies it whether by drowning or by a fever? For, in some way or other, pass I must. -

My response to this was "Have courage to face the inevitable with reason and peace. Do what you can to influence or change your circumstances, but when you have done all that you can, act with dignity."

As I mentioned in yesterday's blog, I have recently experienced a momentous loss in my own personal life.  My mother passed away from a terminal form of cancer within four months of diagnosis.  The example that mother gave me of "grace under extreme adversity", "peace when the storm of life is raging", will stay with me for the rest of my life and with anyone who witnessed her incredible dignity and fortitude.    Upon her initial diagnosis she spoke with her doctors and specialists discovered that there was little medical intervention that would prolong her life considerably and made the choice to accept the inevitable and to spend what little time she had left with family and friends around her.  She chose not to rail at the circumstances or to fight the inevitability of death, but to accept things with serenity.  Her moments, although tinged with regret that she would not experience the future with those that she loved, were filled with important words, love and friendship.

I am blessed to have been part of her final days, blessed to have had such a mother.  I am blessed to have known such a woman;  an example of dignity and virtue in the face of insurmountable and unbeatable adversity.

When we are given a circumstance or challenge in life; first we must virtuously examine our actions moving forward, secondly we must act as we have determined virtue would demand, and then we must accept the outcome understanding that we have done all that we could.  We can then let go and move forward into the sea of life, able to release the outcome and enjoy the journey that is left to us.

Monday, February 18, 2013

When the Rain Falls

I have been telling myself for the past few days that I need to write in my blog so here I am again.

I have not posted much on my blog lately as I have wanted to keep details of my life that involved others off of my blog and I cannot do that if I actually write!  LOLs...

I have recently experienced a huge loss in my life, my mother, and have been processing that loss and I have been busy with dealing with that loss.  My mum was a wonderful mother and a lovely human being.  We had a few months to deal with the news that she was dying but at that moment when the news of her passing came it still came as a huge loss.  Her memorial service was a lovely celebration of all that she had been in life and all that she would continue to be in our recollections, photos and memories of her.  Going through the experience of my mother's illness and her death was a purifying experience, putting all of the mundane and minutiae into sharp contrast with what was important to me.  To focus on family, home and relationships with even more vigour, to fill my life with abundance and live every moment.  To squeeze every last drop out of the fruit of my life.

The study of Stoic philosophy and its practice in my daily life has made a huge difference in my coming to terms with her loss.  When I compare my reactions to the loss of my father before studying Stoicism, I am amazed by the contrast.  I know that death is a reality of life, we cannot have one without the other.  Although I will miss her awfully, I know that my mother has completed the cycle of life and lived her life and loved her family and friends fully.  I am encouraged to live my life even more every day by her example.  We who are left behind to remember her do well to honour her memory every day by living with joy and embracing the world with happiness and wonder.

I now move forward into the world as an orphan yet not alone.  I am surrounded by the love of those who came before and those who are yet still my companions in this life.  I will live more fully and more boldly, having a greater appreciation for each moment as it has been refined under the magnifying glass of terminal illness and death.  I move forward with the motto of Carpe Diem, to seize the day, to savour the moments before they slip away and are lost to the stream of time. To take each moment as a gift, each sunrise as a promise, each moonrise as a benediction, to live.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Oasis of Calm

IN short, then, remember this, that whatever external to your own choice you esteem, you destroy that choice. And not only power is external to it, but the being out of power too; not only business, but leisure too. — "Then, must I live in this tumult now?" — What do you call a tumult? — "A multitude of people." — And where is the hardship? Suppose it is the Olympic games. Think it a public assembly. There, too, some bawl out one thing, some do another; some push the rest. The baths are crowded. Yet who of us is not pleased with these assemblies, and doth not grieve to leave them? Do not be hard to please, and squeamish at what happens. "Vinegar is disagreeable (says one), for it is sour. Honey is disagreeable (says a second), for it disorders my constitution. I do not like vegetables, says a third. Thus, too (say others), I do not like retirement; it is a desert: I do not like a crowd; it is a tumult." — Why, if things are so disposed that you are to live alone, or with few, call this condition a repose, and make use of it as you ought. - EPICTETUS. DISCOURSES. Book iii. §2. ¶3
This passage was the reading on Words of the Ancient Wise for yesterday, January 16th.  As I was reading through it I was struck with how many times I am discontented and churlish because some aspect of the situation I am currently in "displeases" me.  I really can be a petty, hard minded individual at times.  I was reminded, upon reading the above passage, that I need to continue to strive to find contentment within myself.  To strive to not be buffeted by the winds of circumstance or the storms of change around me.  
In cultivating mindfulness within myself, I am creating a refuge and a safe harbour to offset the ravages of circumstance and the cacophony of sound that can often erupt around me.   This allows me to be present in the moment but not perturbed by the specific circumstances that might normally upset me and cause me to react in an immoral or vicious manner.  The Stoic practices of analysis (What is in my control versus what is not), hesitation (to take a momentary pause before reacting) and deliberation are the tools that I can use to help build a refuge, an oasis of calm within myself.